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Archive for the ‘Muppets’ Category

[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN DENVER & THE MUPPETS-A Christmas Together (1979).

This is a strange recording.  Perhaps even more so nearly forty years past its release date when The Muppets are still beloved but aren’t hugely popular.  It’s strange because it’s quite an earnest record, and yet it is sung by puppets with weird voices.

So this album is not meant to be funny (with some exceptions), and yet it’s hard not to smile somewhat at the crazy voices involved.  But the songs aren’t played for laughs.

So if you can get past the fact that Rowlf the Dog is singing an earnest song, it’s quite enjoyable.  In fact, the whole disc is warm and inviting, nonjudgmental and really sweet–pretty much everything that John Denver and The Muppets are known for.

The album features of traditional Christmas carols and original songs.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Denver with the Muppets).  This is kind of an unfortunate song to start with if only because it feels much longer than its 4 minutes (as this song always does).  Having a different Muppet sing each line helps though.  And there are some amusing moments (Beaker of course).  But it’s not really played for laughs, exactly.  Except maybe for Piggy’s “five golden ring” line, kind of.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Rowlf the Dog and Denver).  Rowlf was always an earnest singer so this pairing makes sense.  But Rowlf’s voice is pretty weird.  “The Peace Carol” (John and Scooter with the Muppets). I don’t know this song, but it’s quite pretty and they have wisely picked the least strange-voiced Muppets to sing it with him.

“Christmas Is Coming” (Miss Piggy with Scooter, The Great Gonzo and Robin the Frog) This is a round with Piggy on lead and then each one repeating the one line.  I was unfamiliar with this song too.

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat / Please put a penny in the old man’s hat / If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do / If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

“A Baby Just Like You” (Denver with the Muppets) This is a very John Denver song, pretty and mellow.  “Deck the Halls” (The Muppets)  It’s nice to hear Kermit get a lead vocal.  Everyone sings this in turn and it’s quite nice.  “When the River Meets the Sea” (Robin and Denver with the Muppets)  It’s weird to have a Muppet sing this first verse, but it’s a gentle voice and works nicely with Denver.

“Little Saint Nick” (Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem)  Okay, so hearing the Electric Mayhem is always fun.  I’m amused hearing all of the voices of the band (this is a song you can be silly with).  And of course having Animal shouting “Run! Run! Reindeer!” is pretty darn funny.

“Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913” (Denver) gentle and pretty.  “The Christmas Wish” (Kermit the Frog with the Muppets)  This is a very sweet song wishing love to all whether you believe or not.  Medley: “Alfie, the Christmas Tree” / “Carol for a Christmas Tree” / “It’s in Every One of Us” (Denver with the Muppets)  This is a strange story about a tree who loved Christmas.  And it’s narrated not sung.  This one is skippable.

“Silent Night, Holy Night (Stille Nacht)” (Denver with the Muppets) I was surprised that this was sung in German first.  Then Denver recites how the song was written, and it’s quite moving.   A very lovely rendition.  “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Denver with the Muppets) The disc ends with a bit of fun with the cast singing.  And there’s some good Muppets antics: they sing “figgy pudding”  Miss Piggy asks, “piggy pudding?”  “no, it’s made with figs.”  “oh”  “and bacon.”  And when they sing “we won;t go until we get some” Animal chants “won’t go! won’t go!”

All in all this is a delightful Christmas album.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Aftermath”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

There’s a lot unspoken in this story, which is revealed in little snippets.

Genevieve moved back into the house on Monday.  But she decided that it needed a good cleaning first.  She called a company named Aftermath to go through the whole house–scour it and make it shine.  They asked if there was any kind of biohazard in the house and she said no.

When she returned, everything looked the same, although a little brighter. (more…)

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spacedump SOUNDTRACK: YO-YO MA, EDGAR MEYER, CHRIS THILE AND STUART DUNCAN-Tiny Desk Concert #175 (November 17, 2011).

yoyoYo-Yo Ma might be the most well-known cellist in the world.  I suspect that everyone has heard of him.  But it’s likely that people don’t know just how diverse his musical range is.  As the NPR blurb says:

He’s reached out to a broad range of musicians (and Muppets) to play not just Bach and Beethoven, but also Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, jazz, songs from Sesame Street and a smorgasbord of Asian music with his Silk Road Ensemble. American roots music also figures into Ma’s melting pot: He teamed up with double-bass master Edgar Meyer and fiddler Mark O’Connor 15 years ago for the gentle new-grass album Appalachian Waltz.

For this 2011 venture called The Goat Rodeo Sessions, he has created another Americana album, this time with mandolin master (and multiple Tiny Desk Concert player) Chris Thile.  Meyer is back on double bass and they have added Stuart Duncan on fiddle.

I can honestly say I never expected to see Yo-Yo Ma on a song called “Quarter Chicken Dark” but there he is, playing along as Thile begins the song on the mandolin.  The cello, fiddle and bass are all bowed so, despite the mandolin, the song feels a bit more classical (Thile has also made classical music on the mandolin, so the pairing actually makes a lot of sense).  I think Thile comes off as the star of this song with a wild solo in the middle.

For “Attaboy,” the mandolin starts the song again, but pretty quickly the strings dominate.  There’s a beautiful opening by Ma and a great fiddle interplay in which Duncan hints at the big Irish section he’s going to play.  There’s some wonderful fast mini solos from all of the instruments, including the bass, and then the whole song switches to a jig with Duncan playing a very Irish riff while Duncan and Ma keep the low notes coming.   Incidentally, I believe that Thile and Duncan are playing the exact same solo by the end, which sounds great.  But it’s watching Yo-Yo Ma’s fingers and bow move so fast that is really amazing.

For the final song “Here and Heaven” Aoife O’Donovan joins them on vocals.  And for a chance of pace Duncan switches from fiddle to banjo.  (Although mid way through the song he switches back to fiddle).  Donovan and Thile sing the song together.  On the first verse they are a little too quiet.  But once they start belting out they are fine.  This song is catchy and fun and the vocals really do change the feel of their music.

It’s clear that these accomplished musician are having a lot of fun together.  Meyer and Ma actually wave to each other during the second song, and Thile makes lots of little jokes.  And when he introduces Aoife, it’s funny to hear Yo-Yo Ma cheer like a little kid.

While Yo-Yo Ma if probably the most famous musician here, I like them all, and I’ll honestly listen to Thile do anything.

[READ: August 29, 2012] Space Dumplins

Craig Thompson has created a pretty diverse collection of books.  From the serious and beautiful Habibi, to the weird-looking and sad Goodbye Chunky Rice to this trippy sci-fi story.

The story is about Violet Marlocke, a young girl who lives out in a space trailer park.  Her father is a space lumberjack (whatever that means) and her mom is a seamstress.  They are poor but pretty happy, and that’s okay by Violet, since family is everything to her.

But as the book opens we learn that space whales (okay, I’ll stop putting “space” before everything, because he doesn’t) have just eaten her school.  The whales have been rampaging all of the planets in the area. At first Violet is happy to have no school but her parents have to do something with her.  So her mom brings her to work at Shell-tar where they try to see if she can enroll in the state of the art school there.  She can’t because her dad has a criminal record (and he’s opposed to the fancy school anyway).

While Violet is looking around, she meets Elliot Marcel Ophennorth, a small chicken who is incredibly smart (and has visions of the future).  We also meet Zacchaeus, the last Lumpkin in the world. He works at the dump.  Violet quickly befriends them both, although they don’t all get along very well at first.

Two things then happen pretty quickly back home.  Violet and her dad buy an old piece of junk space bike to fix up and Violet’s dad takes on a dangerous job to make some more money. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MY MORNING JACKET-Circuital (2011).

I have really gotten into My Morning Jacket with their last couple of albums.  I know that they are quite different from their earlier releases, so I’m not quite as surprised by the diversity that’s on them.  With each release, they keep exploring new territory, although it’s all held together nicely by Jim James’ (or Yim Yames’) amazing voice.

The first half of the disc is much more wild than the second half, with longer songs, and more unusual textures.  The second half slows things down and feels almost, but not quite, acoustic.

“Victory Dance” is a slinky song and a cool intro to the disc.  It’s quickly followed by “Circuital,” a 7 minute long epic with two distinct parts.  The first is a kind of quiet echoey introduction, but when the guitars roar in at around 2:30, it turns into a big anthemy song…very ctahcy

“The Day is Coming” opens like a 70s AM radio song, with lots of da da das.  It’s a mellow song, the kind of song the MMJ flesh out with wonderful vocals so it never gets dull.

“Wonderful” is a simply beautiful song.  A gentle ballad about feeling wonderful.  I just found out that this song was originally intended for The Muppet Movie.  It would have been perfect.  Of course, the band are on the soundtrack doing a cover, so I guess that’s kinda close.

“Outta My System” is another catchy little number, also reminiscent of 70s AM radio, although it’s all about doing bad things as a youth and getting them out of your system.  Musically it would also work very well for the Muppets, but I suspect lyrically it might be a bit outré for the movie (granted I haven’t actually seen it so I can’t say for sure).

All the recent MMJ albums have one crazy track and on this one it’s “Holdin’ on to Black Metal.”  So the title is pretty unexpected but it’s nowhere near as unexpected as the content of the song.  It is complete with a children’s chorus and what sounds like horns, although I suspect they are keyboards.  It’s full of blasts of sound and woah woah ohs.  It’s crazy.  I love it.  Much like I love the crazy song, “Highly Suspicious”  from the previous album.  And I just found out that this song is more or less a cover (although with different words of “E-Saew Tam Punha Huajai” by Kwan Jai & Kwan Jit Sriprajan from the album Siamese Soul: Thai Spectacular 1960s-80s Volume 2.  More on that tomorrow.

  After that bizarre track, the album really settles down into an easy groove.  “First Light is a pretty traditional, simple song.  It also has lots of horns.  “You Wanna Freak Out” is also unexpected for the title, as it’s a pretty straightforward rocker. “Slow Slow Tune” doesn not belie its title.  It has a kind of 70s Pink Floyd feel and continues the more mellow second half od the disc.  The disc ends with “Movin’ Away” a slow, piano ballad.

  Although the album has a very comfortable, familiar feel, MMJ have little tricks (great soaring guitars and, again, James’ voice) to make it rise above the ordinary.  It’s great disc that warrants multiple listens.

[READ: January 28, 2012] How I Became a Nun

I didn’t love Aira’s Ghosts because it was too ephemeral for me (as befitting a book called Ghosts, right?).  How I Became a Nun is the exact opposite: a terrifically visceral story that is straightforward and easy to follow, except for perhaps two things.

The first thing is something that’s mentioned on the back of the book (so I’m not threatening a spoiler here).  The main character is named César.  Whenever someone talks to him, they address him as César or boy or him.  And yet, the whole book is written from the point of view of young César, and César describes himself as a girl.  In the fourth paragraph, the narrator states, “I was a devoted daughter.”  And yet, shortly thereafter, another character says about the narrator, “Is it my fault if the boy didn’t like it?”

This goes on throughout the story–not a lot–but enough to keep it in your mind.

The second thing is the ending.  Which I don’t want to spoil.

So what is this wonderfully titled story about?  Well, six-year old César begins, “My story, the story of ‘how I became a nun’ began very early in my life.”  The opening chapter tells the story of César’s first experience with ice-cream.

It is a wonderful chapter, with César’s father promising the wondrous delights of ice cream and taking them both out for a cone.  César’s father enjoys his cone very much, but César, although instantly in love with the pink strawberry color is instantly disgusted by the taste. He even retches a little bit. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MY MORNING JACKET-“Our World” (2011).

This song comes from the The Green Album, the grown- up-bands-cover-the-Muppets album.  I can’t remember if I knew this song to begin with or if I have just listened to this record enough that it sounds so familiar.

Although MMJ have been getting into some crazy electronic and heavy music as of late, this is a very mellow song.  It opens with a banjo!  And while more instruments come in, it stays pretty true to what you’d think the Muppets would sing.

(Aha, thanks internet.  It appeared in Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas).   It’s a really pretty song (Paul Williams knew his way around a ballad, huh?) and this is a very nice cover.

[READ: April 16, 2011] Babymouse: Beach Babe

This the third Babymouse book opens with Babymouse dreaming (of course).  But this time she’s dreaming of surfing!  And she can hang ten (and other surfing lingo) with the best of them.  Until a card says “Too Terrible to See.”  But when she wakes up she has wonderful news…it’s the last day of school!

We also see, to my understanding, the first real encounter with Squeak, Babymouse’s little brother.  When Babymouse runs for the bus, Squeak follows her calling out her name.  She tells him to go home and we see poor Squeak by the side of the road, looking dejected.

But we’re soon back at school, and during the film strip, Babymouse imagines she is the Little Mermaid.  But when she wakes up, the bell rings and school’s out for the summer!

When her parents tell them they’re going on vacation, she has an instant flashback to their terrible vacation last year (and the lack of “facilities” at the camp ground).  But this vacation is going to be different–they’re going to the beach!  And she is super excited…until the drive takes for-

ev-

er.

There’s even a surprising dream sequence about all the trees that she sees on the way down.

When they finally arrive, there’s all the usual beach fun and danger (sunburn!) and Babymouse gets to try her hand at surfing like in her dreams.

It was right around this time that I guessed that the beach that Matthew Holm was drawing was at the Jersey Shore.  And indeed, it is.  The end credits say that the Holms used to vacation at the Jersey Shore.

The book ends with that other classic childhood trauma–having a younger sibling and getting tired of playing with him or her on vacation.  When Babymouse complains about Squeak once too often, he takes it very personally.  And suddenly the story becomes a little frightening and quite touching.

For a snarky series, this one is surprisingly moving.  I wonder if having this book third helped establish that sensitive side of Babymouse (which seems to be missing in later books).  Good for you Babymouse!

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